A Coaches Diary: #6

Another late night…I am up sorting over lineup changes trying to figure out why our team cannot put two solid efforts together in a row.

Once again we split a pair of games last week. We won a thriller of a contest at the buzzer against Dowling College last Wednesday. It was a game that saw many lead changes, as we called timeout with :04 on the clock. I actually used the same play I had drawn up in a previous timeout which resulted in a made three-pointer from about 25 feet to give us the lead. We then allowed a game-tying lay-up. What most people outside of our huddle don’t know, is that the play was not executed as I had constructed it. Just goes to show you, coaches can get way too much credit for plays that players make.

Unfortunately, I could not draw up any plays to overcome the 20-point deficit we faced much of the afternoon the next Saturday at the University of New Haven. New Haven was far too strong and athletic at each position for us to get any rhythm or gain an advantage on the backboards. How do we overcome this propensity for inconsistency?

Surely there is some mystical spell I can cast upon our players to instantly cure all of their deficiencies right? I am sure there is some kind of speech I could conjure up to make players rebound the ball better… These are the things that keep coaches awake at night! As Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots eluded to in his biography, Education of a Coach, you have the passion to coach when your team is the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning, and the last thing you think about before fall asleep at night…Very prophetic I must say.

This brings me to a stark contrast in opinion between coaches and players. Today’s athletes have grown up in far more structured sports environment than generations of the past. Therefore, they seek much more guidance in terms of game play and skill development. What results, in my opinion, are the unfair expectations placed on the coach to take accountability for poor play on the floor. I have spoken to many groups of young players at summer camps and in my own gym about the need for players to take more of a stake in their own performance. Players (and parents) have displaced blame onto the coaches for lack of development and achievement. On any given day, I can be heard saying to my players that my job is not to start the fire that burns inside of them, but rather to make sure that fire never burns out. Young players should learn early in their development, there isn’t a person alive who could make them miss a shot or cause an unforced turnover.

I speak with hundreds of young players every year. Inevitably the subject of their coach at their school comes up. So many of these young players complain incessantly about how bad their coach is. I have a pretty good idea where these complaints start, but that is for another diary many years from now! I usually respond with a lesson I learned from listening to Coach Bob Knight give a lecture at his basketball camp at Indiana University. Coach Knight asked all the high school players to stand up if they thought their coaches at school stunk. Coach Knight retorted, in his typical gruff manner, what makes you so sure your coach doesn’t think you stink? Every coach in the gym had a good laugh at that response for days that week! Despite the cynical nature of his response, Coach Knight was on to something. You see, coaches are human (hard to believe I know) and they have feelings just like everyone else. With this being said, I ask all young players who may think their development is being stifled by a coach, to remember they are all hard working and in some cases, devoting their free time and money to ensure you have a positive life learning experience through sport.

I leave you with this thought…Young adults need to know how much of an impact they have on their teachers and coaches. Our experiences with you are just as important to our growth as a human being, as yours will be with us…

Until next week, big game tomorrow evening! The last conference game of the semester! Time is flying while continue to have fun!

Yours in Hoops,

Tony Staffiere